Just about everyone who practices divorce law has had the conventional wisdom pounded into their head that financial and money problems lie at the heart of most divorces. At least we are told that people are capable of working things out if only they could create some financial stability for their household.
A recent study shows that our conventional wisdom regarding divorce is apparently incorrect. Two researchers in the sociology department of Pennsylvania State University, Paul R. Amato and Denise Previti, analyzed questionnaires submitted by divorcing spouses between 1980 and 1997 to try to determine what caused the breakdown of the marriage. Amato and Previti were able to identify 17 unique causes of divorce.
The most common causes of divorce are surprising to no one:
- Infidelity (indicated in 21.6% of cases)
- Incompatibility (indicated in 19.2% of cases)
- Substance abuse (indicated in 10.6% of cases)
However, a surprising take away for me is that none of the top responses involve money. 3 of the 17 identified causes of divorce had a financial component to them:
- Not meeting family obligations (which related more to homemaking, but nevertheless had a “bread winning” component was indicated in only 3.4% of cases)
- Employment problems (indicated in 3.4% of cases)
- Financial problems (indicated in 2.4% of cases)
Here is the full table summarizing the results of Amato and Previti’s study:
Love is all you need? Tips for spouses trying to avoid divorce.
Marriages require work. A lot of people are raised to think that being a good earner for the family is enough to create a happy, healthy marriage and family unit. That is apparently wrong. But, the other end of the spectrum–working on love exclusively–is just as wrong. Communication, bonding, creating happiness for your spouse, and being compatible with your spouse are every bit as important as love and providing for your family.
Most people seeking a divorce will first make efforts–either in a formal marriage counseling setting or on their own–to fix the problems they are experiencing with their spouse. If you are reading this post and your marriage is on the rocks, it may be helpful to walk through each of the 17 causes of divorce and figure out what applies to your relationship (and needs work) and what doesn’t.